A Family Epic
by Donald Spoto
The dramatic, poignant and revealing saga of the Redgraves, one of history's greatest families of actors.
For more than a century, the Redgraves have defined theater and film while captivating the public eye. Their history is a rich tapestry of singularly talented individuals whose influence is felt to this day, yet their story has never before been told. In The Redgraves, bestselling biographer Donald Spoto draws on his close personal relationships with the family and includes both his interviews and unprecedented personal access to them. The result is a groundbreaking account of this extraordinary clan and their circle, including such luminaries as Elizabeth Taylor, Katharine Hepburn, and Sir Laurence Olivier.
The story began in 1907 with the marriage of actress Daisy Scudamore to matinee idol Roy Redgrave and the birth in 1908 of their son, Michael, who became a famous stage actor and movie star. Michael’s family and wild social circle knew that for decades he was insistently bisexual, notwithstanding his marriage to Rachel Kempson, one of England’s most glamorous and admired actresses.
Their daughter Vanessa, a great and revered performer, is the only British actress ever to win Oscar, Emmy, Tony, Cannes, Golden Globe, and Screen Actors Guild Awards—achievements that have been paralleled by a profound humanitarian commitment even as she tackled difficult and controversial roles.
Vanessa’s sister, Lynn Redgrave, led a triumphant and complex life in her own way, too. From her performance in the movie Georgy Girl to her prizewinning play about her father and her Oscar-nominated performance in Gods and Monsters, Lynn established herself as a very different Redgrave.
Corin Redgrave, their brother, was known for his acclaimed performances onstage and screen—and he was a tireless and outspoken political radical.
The family tradition of distinction continues with the careers of Joely Richardson and Jemma Redgrave and reached a high point in the life and career of Vanessa’s daughter, Natasha Richardson, who earned a Tony Award for her role as Sally Bowles in the revival of Cabaret. Natasha’s sudden death after a skiing lesson in 2009 shocked and saddened admirers of her work and graceful spirit.
The product of more than thirty years of research, The Redgraves recounts the epic saga of a family that has extended the possibilities for actors on stage, screen, and television in Britain, America, and around the world.
- Crown/Archetype, October 2012
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